When I was in my teens, I decided to buy self-tanning lotion in order to darken my skin.
I was a light-skinned black girl, and I was tired of being mocked and placed on a high pedestal by my own black community. So, my 16-year-old mind thought that darkening my skin would make life easier.
Ever since I was a little girl, I was complimented on how beautiful I was. Not to say that I’m not a pretty person, but the compliments were based on my light complexion as a black baby girl. As I grew older, the compliments continued, and I revered as the epitome of black beauty.
It was when I got to high school that I realized how big of a deal being a light skinned black person is. I was judged by the complexion of my black skin by both my black and white counterparts. My white counterparts partially accepted me into their social groups because in their eyes, I wasn’t completely black and therefore acceptable, until it came to birthday parties and sleepovers when my blackness couldn’t secure me an invite.
My black counterparts assumed that because I was light in complexion, I was privileged. By that I mean they thought that I came from a rich family, attended private school and spoke the Queen’s English. They assumed that I was arrogant and automatically attractive, being a magnetic force that attracted the A-list of men. Girls made it their mission to tear me down because of this perceived privilege, and boys swarmed to me to earn brownie points for dating a “yellow bone”.
I was ousted from female black social groups because they couldn’t stand my light complexion. It was an insult to their blackness, which was often bashed and declared ugly, that they took out this frustration on me. They even went as far as telling me that I’m not black enough because my complexion meant that I was diluted, and therefore had no clue or connection with black culture.
To black men, I was a trophy and a sense of achievement, and when I turned them down, they never hesitated to tell me that I’m not “all that” and only pretty because I’m light.
The self-tanning lotion was a way to escape the consequences of the light-skinned privilege that society placed on me. I wanted to prove my blackness to my community and to be treated with respect. Unfortunately, this didn’t work because I didn’t follow the instructions properly and ended up looking like I had jaundice.
Colorism is a cancer that shouldn’t be entertained at all. I blame it on apartheid, where being light skinned earned one some access to economic opportunities and human dignity as one moved out of being classified as black.
I learned to accept that I’m a light-skinned moTswana woman and that there’s nothing wrong with me. Society is the one with the problem for trying to burden me with these so-called light-skinned “yellow bone” privileges and stereotypes.
*image from Bona Magazine.